Theories informing technology enhanced learning in nursing and midwifery education: A systematic review and typological classification

Siobhan O'Connor, Stephanie Kennedy, Yajing Wang, Amna Ali, Samantha Cooke, Richard Booth

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Background: Learning is a complex process involving internal cognitive processes and external stimuli from curricula, pedagogical strategies, and the learning environment. Theories are used extensively in higher education to understand the intricacies of adult learning and improve student outcomes. Nursing and midwifery education uses a range of technology enhanced learning (e-learning) approaches, some of which are underpinned by theoretical frameworks.
Objective: Synthesise literature on theories that inform technology enhanced learning in nursing and midwifery education.
Design: A systematic review.
Data source: CINAHL, ERIC, MEDLINE and PubMed were searched for relevant studies (2000−2021). Reference lists of related literature reviews were hand searched.
Review methods: Title and abstract, followed by full texts were screened by two reviewers independently using predefined eligibility criteria. Quality appraisal was not undertaken. Data were extracted and Merriam and Bierema's typology of adult learning theories used to categorise theories in each study.
Results: Thirty-three studies were included, incorporating twenty-nine distinct learning theories from the behaviourist, cognitivist, constructivist, and social cognitivist domains, with constructivist being the most widely used. Kolb's Experiential Learning Theory and Driscoll's Constructivist Learning Theory were the most commonly reported theories. The population of learners were mainly undergraduate nursing students who used a range of online, mobile, blended or computerised learning, virtual reality, or digital forms of simulation, primarily in university settings. Theories were employed to inform the technology enhanced learning intervention or to help explain how these could improve student learning.
Conclusion: This review highlighted a range of theories, particularly constructivist approaches, that underpin research on technology enhanced learning in nursing education, by informing or explaining how these digital interventions support learning. More rigorous research that examines the myriad of theoretical frameworks and their effectiveness in informing and explaining technology enhanced learning is needed to justify this approach to pedagogical nursing research and practice.
Original languageEnglish
JournalNurse Education Today
Publication statusPublished - 18 Aug 2022


  • Education
  • E-learning
  • Midwifery
  • M-learning
  • Nursing
  • Simulation
  • Technology
  • Technology enhanced learning


Dive into the research topics of 'Theories informing technology enhanced learning in nursing and midwifery education: A systematic review and typological classification'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this